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Last season, ABC had the worst sitcom of the fall (maybe of the last decade) in Work It, a show so bad that only two episodes were aired (and apparently only four shot before the writers and cast were also shot). This season, ABC has Neighbors, (9:30 p.m. Wednesday), one of the least funny things to air on television since the last Hitler documentary on History.
It’s a series so profoundly awful that the universal reaction to it will (must) be: “How in the hell did this get made?”
In fact, that’s a fantastic question. Because — follow along here — someone or five someones had to listen to the pitch. Those people had to say, “You know, that’s not an entirely asinine idea,” and then greenlight the script. I’m not sure how many people read the script, but a lot of people must have said, “This is epic,” so that the bean counters would fund the filming of it. Now, here’s where it gets tricky: Once ABC filmed Neighbors as a pilot and actually watched it (hey, you never know, some things look awful on paper but come alive onscreen), a decision had to be made. A decision with serious fiscal ramifications. It was picked up. (Sounds of gasping and people weeping.) It was a decision that probably meant ABC thought it had even worse sitcoms that it wouldn’t pick up, which is shudder-inducing. I like ABC honcho Paul Lee, so I hope it wasn’t him who said: “You know what, I like it. Let’s go with it.” I imagine it was a lot of people afraid of being fired who said: “Yes, absolutely. Fantastic decision. You are a god.”
OK, so Neighbors gets picked up and put on the schedule. Shouldn’t there be some kind of mandatory transparency law that the person who scheduled it on Wednesday step forward and be pelted with fruit? Listen, I remember when ABC couldn’t make a funny sitcom even if it made a deal with the devil. And now it’s so cocky about a gigantic turd like Neighbors that it’s willing to sully the reputation of its wonderful Wednesday comedy lineup? Man, that is some serious, Disney-sized arrogance.
Oh, wait, there’s been no discussion of the show. Right. Neighbors is about a group of supremely unfunny aliens who come to Earth and buy up an entire subdivision of housing. Every single house. They wait for some kind of communication from their home planet. It doesn’t come. (My guess is the command they are waiting for is, “For the love of all things holy, do or say something funny!”) This long delay of 10 years — roughly the same feeling you’ll get if you watch all 22 minutes of the pilot — results in one alien family getting fed up and leaving.
For the first time ever, this opens up an available house. This allows Marty (Lenny Venito, a good character actor totally wasted here) and his wife Debbie (Jami Gertz) to move in with their kids. Do you know what happens when they arrive? Nothing funny. That’s what happens.
Actually, Neighbors has precisely one good joke. All the aliens are named after famous sports stars. This is funny when the leader/husband says his name is Larry Bird, and then he introduces his wife as Jackie Joyner-Kersee. I have now just ruined the best 11 seconds in the 22 minute pilot. Why? Because throughout the rest of the pilot, the writers go out of their way to introduce other aliens with sports star names and to repeat the Jackie Joyner-Kersee joke about 11 times. Large rubber mallet, meet pliable skull.
For the sake of the actors who participated in this small slice of stupidity, I won’t list the rest of their names. But the series was created by Dan Fogelman, who enjoyed better days when he wrote the screenplay for Cars and Tangled and had the original story idea for Cars 2.
Go rent those. Whatever you do, don’t watch Neighbors. It’s not even funny as a rubberneck so-bad-it’s-good thing. It’s just bad. Check that — it’s awful. Nice work, ABC! Can’t wait to see if you can go 3-for-3 next season with another worst pilot entry.
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